crown v. corporate

Power players

In his column, Bruce Wark asks if it would be possible to set up a provincially owned power corporation that would issue bonds in exchange for the shares now held by private investors ("People power," Editorial, April 1). While this may be possible, I would ask why would we want to?

We've been there and done that, Bruce, and that is why we are where we are. When Nova Scotia had its crown company NS Power operating the electrical utility in our province, we accumulated a debt of $2.245 million. When the privitization took place this debt was transferred from Nova Scotia taxpayers to those persons who purchased the shares of the new Nova Scotia Power.

I believe that I, together with the thousands of Nova Scotians who purchased the shares initially or subsequently, are pleased to enjoy, especially at this time of year, the eight percent federal dividend tax credit we currently receive. And the good news is that the opportunity remains available for anyone who wishes to partake.

The New Brunswick government, in its signing of the MOU with Hydro-Quebec, was attempting to do what Nova Scotia had done in 1992 and to eliminate the $4.8-million deficit accumulated by their crown NB Power company. Perhaps they may have been more successful if they had followed what Nova Scotia had done. Governments do not have good track records operating electric utilities.

In recent years the failure of Ontario Hydro left Ontario with a $22-million debt and an electric system with many problems. The Bruce nuclear plant with an output of 6200Mw was in shutdown for reasons of neglect or incompetence. The government, understanding the critical importance of the ouput of this station to the energy needs of Ontario, transferred the ownership and the responsibility for its refurbishment and restart to a private consortium. The result has become a success for everyone. The now investor-owned Bruce Power Station is a prime example of what good business operators can accomplish. Perhaps there is a lesson here with respect to the problems at NB Power's Point LePreau rehabilitation.

Yes, there is a role for governments in "people services," but the operation of electric utilities is not one of them! —Bill, Halifax

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